|The beautiful 3 sisters in all their glory!|
June is the winter soltice in the Southern Hemisphere, the shortest day (or longest night, depending on your perspective!) of the year. All around the nation, people are turning their heaters on, slipping into bed socks, and making chicken soup. It's cold in Sydney right now, but not as cold as Europe of course - but Australia does get cold people! In a small town an hour's drive out of Sydney, people are actually wearing less clothes, hitting streets and celebrating in their own way. Yes, it's Katoomba Magic Festival time again!
|The main street of Katoomba on festival day.|
|Animals hats on adults? You decide.|
|Some of the costumes at the festival.|
The Winter Solstice had been important for people all around the world for a very long time. Typically it was the last feast before the harsh winter sets in. People feasted because they weren't guaranteed to survive the winter - they had to hope they had enough to eat until spring came. Most of the cattle were slaughtered at this time, so they didn't have to be fed, and so this was the only time a year you had fresh meat. There are also many festivities around the world, as this special day has been known for millennia - they still hold a sunrise ceremony at the Stonehenge for example.
|Animals hats are fine for children.|
|That is real hair...|
In Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney, it is called the Magic Festival, and it kind of like a Medieval Fair on drugs. The main street is closed off to cars, shop stalls are set up, and thousands of people come out all dressed up in weird and wonderful costumes. This year the weather was absolutely glorious - a sunny 19c! I need to remind you that this is the middle of our winter here, and Sydney has been averaging about 22c up until recently - not bad for winter really is it? The mountains are normally colder obviously, but today it turned it on for everyone to enjoy. Usually the weather is bitterly cold - but that has never stopped people coming to the festival.
|Horns AND a onesie!|
|Wow a cape!|
The shop stalls sell anything from ales and coffee to healing crystals and wooly hats. It is just fin to walk the streets, look at the people all dressed up, and enjoy the day. It needs to be mentioned though - the question of 'Onesies' and whether they should be seen in public. If you don't know what onesies are, you've been living under a rock, so get out from under it and open your eyes. Onesies are a one-peice baby's jumpsuit made for adults, and come in all shapes and sizes, but mostly in the form of farmyard animals. There were tigers and penguins and others that I just wasn't too sure about. Grown men and women wear these things (and even some celebs), and the question is really should they be? It is one thing to wear at home on the sofa watching TV, sure, but to come out in public? Well, each to their own I guess, but you won't catch me wearing one!
|I'm watching you!|
|What Katoomba is famous for.|
On any other day, the village of Katoomba is a peaceful and relaxing place. Although it is the mountains, they aren't skiing mountains. Katoomba is at about 1000m, and very different mountains - there are no real peaks, instead just valleys with plateaus sticking out of the green eucalypt forest. The first (European) people to explore and cross the Blue Mountains were a trio of men, Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth (now town names there). They started out in 1813, as by that time the colony in Sydney had grown rapidly since it's founding in 1788, and needed more farming land to meet it's needs. Their crossing was successful due to a new idea of exploring mountains - previous it had been the English way of following valleys - and this had so far proved futile in Australia. Completed in 21 days, it opened up new farming land for Sydney and founded Australia's first inland city (Bathurst), and the explorers were each granted 1,000 acres of land by Governor Lachlan Macquarie for their services. This is the same Governor of NSW that named everything after his and his wife - Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Lake Macquarie, Lachlan River, Port Macquarie and Macquarie Street in Sydney to name just a few. What an ego!
|View of The Blue Mountains from Echo Point.|
Well that's it for another year. Now Katoomba will be returned to it's normal state of relaxation, quiet coffee shops, and artists and people with slightly alternative lifestyles. It is a lovely place, one that I would consider living in if I decided that I needed out of the city. I can quite easily picture myself in my house, looking out over the valleys and breathing in the clean, fresh air. It would have to be green house, solar panels, rainwater collection, the whole deal. Ah but my mind wanders!